But my occasional shoe self-consciousness is forgotten when I admire the summer rakishness of my backyard. The bees and hummingbirds think it’s all the rage. And my yard is quite popular with a number of chichi birds.
Even though my backyard is probably the size of Donald Trump’s bathmat, it’s much prettier – and probably smells better, too.
The chitalpa, chaste trees, butterfly bushes, Texas rangers, Russian sage, coreopsis and salvia I planted three years ago in my newborn yard have grown into stout adolescents teeming with a crayon box of blooms.
Of course, I’ve dug out, replaced and added something like $6,000 worth of plants in that time. But I would much rather have spent the money on plants than pants, on shoots than shoes. I’ve yet to meet a coreopsis that made my butt look big.
I wasn’t always a gardener. I grew up in the L.A. basin, where we basically had a “lawn,” “trees” and “bushes.” Don’t ask me what they were. They were green and required watering on Saturdays, that’s all I knew.
I could identify a ’67 Camaro and ’64 Impala, but I didn’t know the difference between an elm and a birch, a pansy and a petunia.
I’m still pretty lame about hardwood trees, but I can name a plethora of local wildflowers and regional annuals and perennials. Not to mention knowing that an “annual” isn’t just a school yearbook.
My acquired knowledge gives me a little fun, too. I was waiting in line at the nursery recently, an oleander in my cart. A woman in front of me turned and commented on the hardiness of her oleanders. I nodded in agreement.
“And I like to make tea from the leaves of my oleanders,” I said enthusiastically.
The woman’s eyebrows hit her hairline.
“Tea? From your OLEANDERS?” she sputtered in alarm.
“Yes, it’s delicious,” I smiled.
“Next!” the cashier called, and the perplexed woman stepped to the counter, looking back at me with concern over my poisonous brew.
When I learned to identify the infamous allergen ragweed, I broke a few sprigs from a bush in the parking lot at Zion and took them inside the visitor center to innocently ask if I could take the “pretty flowers” home for a bouquet. I fake sneezed for effect.
The rangers behind the counter snickered at each other and said, “Sure, why not.”
See, I could never be this smart-alecky with a pair of shoes.
So the next time I see one of my work peers surreptitiously glancing at my scuffed brown or black shoes, I’m going to say, “Yeah, but you should see my backyard.”
They probably won’t get the connection, but maybe they would like some of my oleander tea.